Bootstrapping and pinning down the root meristem; the auxin-PLT-ARR network unites robustness and sensitivity in meristem growth control

Jacob P. Rutten, Kirsten H. Ten Tusscher*

*Corresponding author for this work

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After germination, the meristem of the embryonic plant root becomes activated, expands in size and subsequently stabilizes to support post-embryonic root growth. The plant hormones auxin and cytokinin, together with master transcription factors of the PLETHORA (PLT) family have been shown to form a regulatory network that governs the patterning of this root meristem. Still, which functional constraints contributed to shaping the dynamics and architecture of this network, has largely remained unanswered. Using a combination of modeling approaches we reveal how the interplay between auxin and PLTs enables meristem activation in response to above-threshold stimulation, while its embedding in a PIN-mediated auxin reflux loop ensures localized PLT transcription and thereby, a finite meristem size. We furthermore demonstrate how this constrained PLT transcriptional domain enables independent control of meristem size and division rates, further supporting a division of labor between auxin and PLT. We subsequently reveal how the weaker auxin antagonism of the earlier active Arabidopsis response regulator 12 (ARR12) may arise from the absence of a DELLA protein interaction domain. Our model indicates that this reduced strength is essential to prevent collapse in the early stages of meristem expansion while at later stages the enhanced strength of Arabidopsis response regulator 1 (ARR1) is required for sufficient meristem size control. Summarizing, our work indicates that functional constraints significantly contribute to shaping the auxin-cytokinin-PLT regulatory network.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4731
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021


  • Auxin
  • Computational modeling
  • Cytokinin
  • Root meristem size control
  • Self-organization


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